He Is God and We Are Not

Casting Crowns popularized a song titled, “In Me.” Some of the lyrics follow:

How refreshing to know You don’t need me.
How amazing to find that You want me.
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me.

I was impressed at the depth of these lyrics. They serve as a jumping board for my topic: He is God and we are not. Hopefully, these thoughts will serve as a tonic to remedy a popular—but weakened—view of God.

Our Need

The first principle suggested by the song is that God does not need us, but we need Him. The Scriptures are clear on this:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (ESV, Acts 17:24-25)

God urges us to serve Him, and His love for us is great; but He does not need us. Your church needs you. The Kingdom of God summons you to loyal service, and your absence affects the Body. But God’s throne is assured—with or without your cooperation!

God may not need us, but we desperately need Him. The Bible continues, “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’ ” (Acts 17:28), “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17). Our every breath is dependent upon the mercy and grace of God. The universe is held together at His discretion.

Not only do we need God, but we make fools of ourselves if we try to defy Him. If we attempt to hurt Him—to get even with Him because we do not like the way He runs the universe or our lives—we emerge as the real losers. Note the futility of trying to “get even” with God:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (Ps. 2:2-4a)

Indeed, our puny defiance is comical when contrasted with the majesty of God. “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” (Is. 40:22).

God’s Love

Yet, despite the fact that God does not need us, He loves us dearly. We perceive His love not on the basis of how we fare in life, but on the basis of Calvary: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Jesus’ invitation stands: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

God cares about us. He cares about whether we serve him with zealous hearts, and He becomes angry when we become lukewarm (Rev. 3:16). But He does not need us. He competently managed the universe before we were born, and He’ll manage to get by when we are gone.

We never win by resisting God or distancing ourselves from Him in an attempt to get even or register protest. But the Scriptures encourage us to “have it out” with God, as David did in the Psalms. Let us argue our case, as Job did. But let’s not cut off our noses to spite our faces. We need God. He doesn’t need us. We must not forget that!

Our Likes

A principle not mentioned in any song (that I know of) is this: You do not need to like everything about God to trust Him. Personally, I could list a number of things I do not like about God. I do not like that He consigns people to the Lake of Fire. I do not like that He allows suffering and horrible miseries in lives of relatively decent people. Although there are no “good” people (Matt. 19:17), it is frustrating to see especially evil people prosper while more compassionate people suffer. I do not like the doctrine of election or the teaching that there is only one way to God, Jesus Christ. I do not like these things, but I believe them.

One winter day, I was walking in the church parking lot when I hit a sheet of “black ice.” I danced around like a Russian Cossack, but I eventually hit the ground. The law of gravity took me down. I did not like the law of gravity at that point in time, but it just is. I cannot eliminate gravity by refusing to believe in it. What is is. The same is true with God. As He told Moses, He is who He is.

Our theological beliefs are not based on what we want to believe, but rather upon what we understand to be the original intent of the Scriptural authors. The dichotomy between the “religious” and “real” is foreign to Scripture. God is who He is. I am not going to change who He is by redefining Him. My convictions are not something I can alter at will or by a poll—they are based on the infallible Word of God, interpreted with integrity, not on an agenda.

The psalmist in Psalm 73 did not appreciate God’s permissive will. He grappled with God’s seeming injustice. He eventually processed his frustration and renewed his commitment to walk with God.

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… This is what the wicked are like —always carefree, they increase in wealth. Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure…When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. (NIV, Psalm 73:3-27, passim)

Some atheists or agnostics reject God out of emotional bitterness rather than intellectual reasoning. When these folks talk about why they reject belief in God, they are not cold and calculating. Their emotions demand direction toward God, as they express their tirade of complaints: babies dying, natural disasters, horrific tragedies.

How could they be so angry at one they do not believe exists? If you listen between the lines, what you are actually hearing is: “God, I defy You. I hate You. I am not going to believe in You.” Some atheism is a cloaked attempt to punish God because the atheists are bitter about the way He runs the universe.

As believers, we too can be emotionally devastated at the things God allows in our lives or in the lives of others. Our choice to believe and work things out with God is the hallmark of God’s elect.

Although humans are religious by nature, Paul tells us that it is not human nature to seek the true God, “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’ ” (Rom. 3:10-11).

The true God seems foolish and unattractive to the person who has not been born again: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14).

Because we are sinners, we are hostile toward the true God: “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:6-8).

God can work miracles. By means of the new birth (John 3:1-18), He works in our hearts to create faith within us—and He brings us to spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). We are drawn to the true God—despite our natural dislike for Him. We begin to love and trust Him. And we learn to accept that He is God and we are not. His ways are higher than ours (Is. 55:8-9). The Lord may seem to delight in confusing us, but we choose to walk through the storms with Him, perplexed but still trusting. We may disagree with Him passionately and vehemently, but we remind ourselves that we are the ones with the problem, not Him.

[node:bio/ed-vasicek body]

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drwayman's picture

Ed - you wrote, "Yet, despite the fact that God does not need us, He loves us dearly."

I tend to think of it as, "God wants to need me." God doesn't need anything, He is perfect within Himself, lacking nothing. However, God's love for me feels like He needs me. Whaddyathink?

Pedid por la paz de Jerusalén.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Question's for Ed but... "need" is a kind of flexible word. If I decide I'm going to get to town by bicycle, I "need" my bike. But I have a car, so of course I don't really need my bike.

Seems to me that "need" is always a contingent idea: need for what?
God is not incomplete in any sense, so nothing we can be or do meets a "need" in Him in that sense. But He has decided to use people to accomplish certain ends and "needs" them in that sense.

It's an awesome thing: He has chosen to use us to bring Him glory and, having made that choice, "needs" us to reach that goal.

But I'm completely with Ed in the spirit of the essay: any time God "needs" me in any sense it's because He didn't need me, then decided to need me. So it's not like I'm something great that God would be in a bind to do without.
Maybe I should have stopped at the bike analogy. Seems to work.

About Job... I'm not sure he's an example of how we should interact with God about what He does that befuddles/frustrates/angers us. Though God never says Job sinned, Job himself does (pretty much: Job 42:6). So if Job is our example, he has to be an example of a guy who repented and stepped back into his proper place after he realized he'd been out of line. (Then again, he's not entirely clear about how he was out of line.)

Ed Vasicek's picture

drwayman wrote:
Ed - you wrote, "Yet, despite the fact that God does not need us, He loves us dearly."

I tend to think of it as, "God wants to need me." God doesn't need anything, He is perfect within Himself, lacking nothing. However, God's love for me feels like He needs me. Whaddyathink?

I would prefer to say that God wants to enjoy me, but he is in no way weakened nor thwarted if I choose to walk away, though he is grieved and displeased. At this point, the issue of the http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/impassib.htm impassivity of God arise, and I am not sure exactly where I stand on that. I would hesitate to say, "God wants to need me" because that implies God wants to be something he is not. He is complete in Himself.

Aaron says,

Quote:
Seems to me that "need" is always a contingent idea: need for what? God is not incomplete in any sense, so nothing we can be or do meets a "need" in Him in that sense. But He has decided to use people to accomplish certain ends and "needs" them in that sense.

Aaron, the first part of your statement is beyond question. In the second idea you used the word "need" in quotations (very wisely). He has chosen to use us, but he can easily accomplish his purpose completely apart from us. For example, when Peter tried to lead a fight against those who were arresting Jesus and cut off the servant's ear, Jesus said:

Quote:
Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? Matthew 26:53
.

We see times in Scripture when God uses troops to gain the victory, and times when God sends an angel to do the dirty work (2 Kings 19:35)

Quote:
And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

God uses people, but he does not absolutely need them. That is where i am going with this.

"The Midrash Detective"

drwayman's picture

Ed - You wrote, "I would hesitate to say, "God wants to need me" because that implies God wants to be something he is not. He is complete in Himself."

Absolutely, God is complete within Himself. We have the doctrine of aseity, which is undisputed in Christian theology. I was approaching your post from a different perspective. I was approaching from my personal point of view, the one with which I am most acquainted. I really like when you say that God wants to enjoy you [me ]. But God is not in any way incomplete if He does not enjoy me but He would be grieved/disappointed.

My point was, "It feels like God needs me." Just speaking from my personal relationship with Him.

I can also accept what you say, "God wants to enjoy me."

Pedid por la paz de Jerusalén.

Ed Vasicek's picture

drwayman wrote:
My point was, "It feels like God needs me." Just speaking from my personal relationship with Him.

Right, we are saying the same things. I love the way you think!

"The Midrash Detective"

Joel Tetreau's picture

Excellent thoughts my friend. Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Charlie's picture

Isn't this the whole point of the book of Esther? God prepares a specific person, puts her in a specific place, arranges events so that she and she only (it seems) can thwart the machinations of Haman, and what does Mordecai say? "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)"

Wow. Mordecai affirms that Esther has been placed by God "for such a time as this," yet he also knows that God, on the basis of his promises, will deliver the Jews whether or not Esther cooperates. It makes all the difference in the world to her, though, what she chooses. So, I believe that God has nothing to gain or lose by my cooperation, but I sure do.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Ed Vasicek's picture

Charlie wrote:
Isn't this the whole point of the book of Esther? God prepares a specific person, puts her in a specific place, arranges events so that she and she only (it seems) can thwart the machinations of Haman, and what does Mordecai say? "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)"

Wow. Mordecai affirms that Esther has been placed by God "for such a time as this," yet he also knows that God, on the basis of his promises, will deliver the Jews whether or not Esther cooperates. It makes all the difference in the world to her, though, what she chooses. So, I believe that God has nothing to gain or lose by my cooperation, but I sure do.

Charlie, you have come up with the perfect example! It illustrates the entire picture. Well done.

"The Midrash Detective"

Caleb S's picture

I just want to say thanks for the opening article and the discussion so far.

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